There’s no place like home, even underwater, though the eventual happiness here seems more dictated than organic.

SHINE!

A sea creature yearns to live in the sky.

Hoshi is a red starfish with little black eyes and white circles on her cheeks. Every night on the beach, she gazes longingly upward, believing that only as a celestial star can she “shine.” As the sun rises and the tide pulls her back into the water, the text is amusingly explicit about what Hoshi’s environment isn’t actually missing: “ ‘I should be floating among the colorful planets,’ Hoshi [thinks], as she float[s] among the colorful coral”; “ ‘Up there, there are exciting and endless possibilities,’ she explain[s] to the exciting, endless schools of minnows.” McDonnell’s two-part message—that Hoshi’s environment has everything she longs for, and that she can “shine” and be happy simply by deciding to, as an anglerfish explains—is hardly original, and Hoshi’s self-pity (“poor little me…a star stuck in the sea”) feels overdone at her expense. However, the artwork—acrylic, pencil, pastel, and ink on plywood—has some lovely aspects. The stars in the sky seem truly luminescent; the “exciting, endless” school of yellow minnows glides alluringly through green water; and, most inventively, Stoop uses the natural wood grain of her plywood base as beach, undersea sand patterns, and ocean currents.

There’s no place like home, even underwater, though the eventual happiness here seems more dictated than organic. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-26278-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S HALLOWEEN

A lift-the-flap book gives the littlest trick-or-treaters some practice identifying partygoers under their costumes.

Little Blue Truck and his buddy Toad are off to a party, and they invite readers (and a black cat) along for the ride: “ ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ / says Little Blue. / ‘It’s Halloween!’ / You come, too.” As they drive, they are surprised (and joined) by many of their friends in costume. “Who’s that in a tutu / striking a pose / up on the tiniest / tips of her toes? / Under the mask / who do you see?” Lifting the flap unmasks a friend: “ ‘Quack!’ says the duck. / ‘It’s me! It’s me!’ ” The sheep is disguised as a clown, the cow’s a queen, the pig’s a witch, the hen and her chick are pirates, and the horse is a dragon. Not to be left out, Little Blue has a costume, too. The flaps are large and sturdy, and enough of the animals’ characteristic features are visible under and around the costumes that little ones will be able to make successful guesses even on the first reading. Lovely curvy shapes and autumn colors fade to dusky blues as night falls, and children are sure to notice the traditional elements of a Halloween party: apple bobbing, lit jack-o’-lanterns, and punch and treats.

Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-77253-3

Page Count: 16

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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